(Speech to the House of the Lord Church Brooklyn, NY August 19, 2003)
Reverend Daughtry, Congregation of The House of the Lord, Councilman Barron-soon to be Mayor Barron-fellow warriors for peace; family members of the US troops stationed abroad. Thank you for inviting me to be with you this evening.
We also join with those who mourn today’s loss of life. And that’s exactly why we are here tonight. We make our stand for peace.
Tonight, the focus is not on Bush, Cheney, Powell, or Rice. It’s on our troops.
And in the most passionate spirit of patriotism we say, Bring the Troops Home Now!
When America’s Top Gun, George W. Bush first proclaimed his War On Terrorism, one of the first things he did was to cut the high deployment overtime pay of the young men and women he was asking to fight on the frontlines of his new war. Now, almost two years later, sadly, we must face the fact that the circumstances confronting our young military men and women have grown acutely worse.
Not only are they underpaid, but the powerful Administration that holds their fate in the cup of its hands, has obfuscated, dissembled, and outright lied to them about their central mission and why they have been placed on the four corners of our globe.
Interestingly, before our children were shipped overseas, they were given shots. They weren’t given the option of taking or not taking these shots. They were given shots. And those who declined are being court-martialed for not taking those shots.
But I wonder if this Administration told our children that its vaccine supplier is the same DynCorp corporation whose employees are buying and selling little girls in Eastern Europe today. DynCorp has changed its name, but it hasn’t changed its behavior and has no business supplying vaccines to the Pentagon or to our children.
Now, one of the young women being court-martialed said that she wanted to breastfeed her as yet unborn children and she didn’t want the vaccines to interfere. It’s sad that the Administration can’t tell that young woman what the effect of these vaccines is on her and her children, but it can jail her for not taking them.
And if that isn’t enough, our troops in Qatar, Iraq, Uzbekistan, and elsewhere are now afflicted with a mystery illness that might well have been caused by the anthrax vaccine, according to Dr. Sever a co-author of a government study that, last year, found the vaccine was the “possible or probable cause” of pneumonia in two soldiers.
Nearly 400,000 troops received that vaccine. One 22-year old soldier died at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota on April 4, before she could be deployed, of what one doctor diagnosed as pneumonia after receiving both the anthrax and smallpox vaccinations.
And by the way, DynCorp is involved with both the anthrax and the smallpox vaccines for the Pentagon.
Now, Rumsfeld and company can say well, these troops had the pneumonia before they left for Iraq and all these other places because the Administration also reneged on its promise to give health screenings to the troops before they deployed so we all could know what was pre-existent and what was not. Having failed to pre-screen the troops before deployment, what makes us think they will treat them properly afterwards?
And certainly, if past treatment of our sick veterans is any indication, we need look no further than the more than 160,000 Gulf War One veterans who are still sick today. Our Vietnam veterans had to sue to get treated for Agent Orange, our Gulf War vets are no different, having had to sue to get treated for Gulf War Syndrome.
In addition, this Administration is big on talk, but when it has to choose between rhetoric for our troops and hard dollars for its corporate criminal friends, it chooses its friends every time.
How else could Dick Cheney’s Halliburton win a no-bid contract to feed our tro ops in Afghanistan and Iraq and yet the food make them sick in Afghanistan and they not have enough water to drink in Iraq?
Or how is it that one quarter of those who sleep on our streets every night are veterans of wars?
Wars that rich and powerful insiders like Bush and Cheney and Powell and Rice get to send other folks’ kids to?
Which brings us to another point. Those who increasingly are feeling the brunt of the decisions of this Administration look like us here in this church. They don’t look like the Congress or the staff at the White House or for that matter the Supreme Court that gave us this Administration.
Which is another cause for alarm. It appears that America’s poor and people of color are the cannon fodder for Bush’s New American Century. They have predicted a generation of fighting. And Caspar Weinberger suggests that America’s people of color are more patriotic than America’s young white kids are, and that’s why there are disproportionately more people of color in our all-volunteer military.
It is utterly despicable to make that suggestion in the face of a recession-driven economy that has produced the highest unemployment in a generation and pushed more people of color below the middle class. Sadly, George Bush stands in the doorway of opportunity at America’s colleges and universities just like his predecessor in spirit, George Wallace, did two generations before him. Dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, the anti-affirmative action stance of this Administration harks back to more shameful days in our country.
Too many of our young men and women joined the military just to get a college education. Not to be on the front lines in a war and at the back of the line when it comes to getting ahead.
So while our mucho macho commander in chief, from the safety of a presidential entourage and carefully scripted stage props, tells the Iraqis to “Bring it on,” tonight we stand with the families who say, “Bring Our Troops Home . . . Now!
And as we uncover the deceit associated with George Bush The Son’s Gulf War, we have yet to touch the surface of his Administration’s record on 9-11.
From 2.3 trillion missing dollars at the Pentagon, to the military strategy of occupation that accompanies the New American Century; from erosion of our civil rights and a return to the COINTELPRO days, to the outright theft of an election, there is much this Administration must answer to the American people for.
As your Congresswoman, these are the issues that I tackled every day. As you now know, 48,000 Republicans crossed over and voted for the Republican they had drafted to run against me in my Democratic Primary. With your help, I can go back to Congress and fight for you once again.
Republicans spent 40 million of our tax dollars to impeach Bill Clinton for having sex. But that wasn’t good enough; they targeted me because I asked what did the Bush Administration know about 9-11; and now they’re targeting Gray Davis because a few Republicans call him “stupid.”
Well, if stupidity is a criterion for a recall, then certainly criminal neglect in the 9-11 tragedy; conspiracy to use false intelligence to justify a war; and permitting bold corporate looting of the treasury–are certainly grounds for impeachment.
Finally, I know that after what they did in Florida, that many people, especially people of color, are asking what’s the use in voting when they won’t count our votes. But let me tell you. The reason we all know about Florida is because there was an overwhelming black turnout nearing 100% of all black registered voters. That’s why they were forced to steal it out in the open. My prescription is not despair, but a redoubling of our efforts. Let’s make the turnout in all 50 states so high that it will be impossible for them to steal it on the basis of one state alone.
George Washington, in his farewell address, warned us not to believe in false patriots who wrap themselves in the flag while betraying our values. Tonight, we are the true patriots for our country.
Tonight, we stand up against the brazen corruption of every ideal upon which our country was founded.
The true story of our mission in Iraq cannot be told by Paul Wolfowitz or Richard Perle. It is the story told by our troops who want to come home.
I’d like to thank the families for daring to believe that America can be better than what we have become and for being willing to stand up to make it so.
CYNTHIA McKINNEY is a former member of congress from Georgia.